The past four EVE Online expansions have mostly focused on adding small features and overhauling old game mechanics and content that were beginning to show their age. Crucible delivered dozens of small but highly-requested features and gameplay improvements, and Inferno and Retribution continued with overhauls of several aging PvP systems. Even Odyssey contained mostly small features and revamps, its biggest gameplay features being a new hacking minigame and a streamlined scanning interface. It's been several years since EVE has received a truly massive and game-changing feature like wormholes or a sovereignty revamp, but that may all be about to change!
CCP recently announced its intention to start reaching for big ideas again, but this time set over a more realistic timeframe. If everything goes according to plan, the next five years could see the introduction of player-built stargates and true deep space colonisation. I wrote about the potential of this concept last week and looked at some of the big features we'd need to make it a reality, but I didn't really delve into my personal favourite idea for a potential future expansion: New strategic resources and player-created deadspace complexes.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at how strategic resources could be used to get even individual players invested in something worth fighting for, and how player-created deadspace dungeons could be a great way to introduce them.
Fighting over strategic resources
EVE Online's history is replete with examples of static resources being farmed and fought over. The most obvious examples are the valuable moons spread throughout the lawless nullsec regions and low-security space, which form part of the prize of territorial conquest. A starbase anchored around a Dysprosium or Neodymium moon can pump out over two billion ISK per month with very little initial investment, but you'd better have the military force to hold onto such a valuable prize. Despite the fact that sovereignty structures are now located at stargates, starbases remain high-profile targets in territorial wars due simply to their financial and strategic roles.
Interestingly, moons aren't the only example of strategic resources in EVE. Before tech 2 materials were added to moons, people similarly fought over systems with conquerable outposts, high-end asteroid belts, better NPC spawns, and static deadspace complexes. These aren't passive sources of income like moons are and so don't represent as enticing a prize, but they're still prime examples of stationary strategic resources. Everyone knows where they are, how much they're worth, and what level of force is likely to be required to take it from the current owner. They become motivators for war, adding incentives for alliances to put their war machines into second gear.
Deadspace complexes as PvP flashpoints
Valuable DED-rated deadspace complexes used to reside in known locations and respawn on set timers, but it was horribly abused. They were moved into the randomly distributed exploration system a few years back because it became obvious that corporations were logging on minutes after downtime each day to complete them. People even worked out the hidden respawn timers and created efficient speed-running gangs to beat competing groups to the punch. Removing them from their static locations in space was a good move, but I think we lost some interesting emergent gameplay with that change.
The right to run a complex in nullsec or even lowsec was often fought over by individual players and small groups out looking for some easy ISK, providing flashpoints for political conflict and PvP. Pirates would sometimes wait on the other side of the acceleration gate, anti-pirates would bait the pirates, and competing corporations routinely came to blows over rights to run the local complex. That kind of competitive gameplay is what EVE is all about, but right now it's not really accessible to new players and small groups. What I'd love to see next is a series of new small- and mid-scale strategic resources for individuals and small corporations to fight over.
Building your own deadspace dungeon
These strategic resources could come in the form of abandoned deadspace facilities that we could invest in and bring back to life. We could reactivate an abandoned mine and it would start delivering minerals once every 24 hours, or find a weapons factory that outputs free ammo once per week. Once the facility is up and running, it would be publicly visible and the delivery time would be displayed for all to see. People could then try their luck at stealing from your new passive income stream, and you could show up to defend it. If attacked, the facility would go into reinforced mode and exit at its next delivery time.
To help prevent large alliances just eating up all the facilities, they could be divided into groups with different requirements. Small facilities would be owned by a single player, medium facilities by a corporation, and large by an alliance. They might even be limited by ship size like faction warfare complexes. To make things interesting, the owner could possibly pay to beef up the facility's defenses through an upgrade tree, adding sentry guns, mercenary NPC spawns, shield bubbles, remote repair platforms, and tactical environments like nebulae.
The defenses would have to activate only if the legitimate owner is inside the facility so that an abandoned facility could be easily taken over. Stealing from the facility or attacking it could also flag the attacker as a suspect, allowing individual players to fight over small facilities in high security space. The idea is simply to provide an interesting flashpoint for PvP and to make it so that the defender has a distinct advantage, forcing the attacker to bring more ships or firepower.
It's said that a sure-fire way to get players to invest in a sandbox MMO is to let them build their own sandcastles, and so it is with EVE Online. A nullsec alliance's territory gives members a home that they use every day and will want to defend, and there's nothing quite as motivating as when your wormhole corporation's starbase comes under threat.
But what if we took that idea further by adding smaller conquerable strategic resources of varying shapes and sizes all across EVE? Why should territorial warfare be limited only to nullsec, and the prizes to entire regions of space, stations, and billion ISK moons?
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.